Some Thoughts and Facts About Iraq

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The war against Iraq has begun.

For the best brief explanation I’ve seen on the case for war, go here

Many, if not most of those reading this, probably disagree that this war is necessary.

There’s a lot of faulty information and faulty thinking out there. Let’s look at a few of the major items.

How Do You Solve A Problem Like A Saddam?

The American position is actually rather simple. You have an SOB in a very sensitive part of the world who could wreak havoc in a number of ways if left alone. Taking over a big chunk of the world’s oil supplies and using the money to build up a military machine to conquer Israel and make Saddam a modern-day Saladin is one of the likely possibilities.

Should that happen, at best we have a global economic crisis, at worst, we get a rather major nuclear war. This is not good.

During most of the nineties, a combination of sanctions and occasional military whacks kept Saddam’s career plans on hold, and if that were still true, there would be no reason for this war, but it isn’t true any more. The world has lost interest in sanctions; they’ve pretty much fallen apart, and no peace-lover has suggested bringing them back.

As a result, Saddam is getting a lot more money for his nasty toys. The SOB is bound to cause trouble once he gets enough toys. America feels it is better to fight him now before rather than after he gets his new toys and while Americans are in the mood to support fighting. At the least, it will save a lot of American lives (not to mention possibly others).

The continued rule of Saddam has meant a continued American military presence to defend the major oil countries against Saddam, which makes a lot of people like Mr. Bin Laden very unhappy. No Saddam, no need to keep troops in such places.

While the connection to al-Queda probably has been light up to now, the major concern is not what has been done in the past, but what could happen in the future.

Weapons of mass destruction are really not DIYers. It’s much easier to go to BombsRUS and buy a few. America wants to stop any possibility of that store opening. This may be more of an excuse than a reason, but Saddam all by his lonesome can do a lot more damage to the world than al-Queda.

Yes, there’s a lot of maybe and mights there, but this illustrates the problem the world faces when there’s a Saddam or Saddam-type around. If you want to say America is jumping the gun, fine, but if not now, when? When does it become OK?

It’s moronically easy to wait until overt aggression occurs, but it’s hardly moral to wait for thousands or millions of other people to die before you do something.

And if it does happen, just what are you going to do about it? Are you ready to fight? If you don’t like America as the world’s cop, fine, but where’s your cop?

The reality is people don’t like cops until they need one. Then they’re great, until they aren’t needed any longer. For instance, just a handful of years ago, Europeans had no problem calling on the United States when they couldn’t handle a local problem, in Bosnia and Kosovo.

The United States tried for years to stay out of that one, but in the end, the Europeans dragged us into that one (and gee, nobody in Europe even thought of asking the UN for permission to go into Bosnia or Kosovo).

The problem with most of the rest of the world, especially the anti-war Europeans, is that they want power but none of the accountability or the responsibilities that go with it. They’ve appointed themselves watchdog over the American Rottweiler, and said, “You pay for it, and we’ll decide when you can use it.”

If they are wrong and Saddam becomes a major threat, they don’t bear the price of being wrong and fixing the mistake. They won’t have to defeat him. It’s easy to be for peace when you’re gambling with other people’s lives, and others have to do the dying if you’re wrong.

If worst comes to worst and Saddam uses his toys, the people dying will be those living in the Middle East, and, eventually, the lives of those willing and able to fight. A lot more coalition forces would die then than would die now.

In the long run, it is probably against the interests of the United States to have to be the world’s cop to the degree that it is now, no matter how well-intentioned the efforts are.

However, the true answer to this problem is real burden-sharing, not a veto power by the uninvolved and/or irresponsible.

There are those who love peace and hate war. That’s great until you run into an armed person or country with the opposite opinion. Then what do you do?

It’s nice to think all the world’s problems can be solved by singing “Kumbaya” and “Imagine” long enough and hard enough to people, and certainly that’s a better route to go when the ones you are singing to are inclined to listen.

Unfortunately, there’s still a whole lot of people and leaders who don’t want to hear it. Mr. Saddam is one of them. People have been singing “Kumbaya” and “Imagine” to him for twelve years, and I don’t think he’s heard a note. He marches to the tune of a different drummer.

What do you do with such people, and when do you do it? If you are opposed to U.S. policy, fine. What’s your answer? “Just Say No” is not an answer.

If you don’t like the cop on duty, that’s one thing, but “no cop” is no answer. Only criminals benefit from that. Come up with a better cop, and be willing to help pay for it. That’s a real alternative (and not one likely to bring smiles in Washington, DC). Just jumping up and down saying, “No, no, no” isn’t.

Page 2: Oil’s Well That Ends Well…

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Oil’s Well That Ends Well

Many say this war is about oil. They say it like it’s a bad thing.

It isn’t, but before we get into that, people have some weird ideas about oil.

Some think this is part of an American conspiracy to lower the oil price. It is likely that a post-Saddam Iraq will after a few years of oil well rehabilitation pump more oil, which would tend to lower the oil price.

However, exactly the same thing would happen if the world got rid of all the sanctions and left Saddam alone.

The only real difference between the two would be who would do the construction work and sell the oil. A Saddamned Iraq would likely have the French and Russians doing much of the work, and a post-Saddam Iraq would be infinitely more likely to have American companies do it.

So those who are against the war who think they are fighting against Big Oil aren’t. They’re really fighting for French and Russian Big Oil interests over American Big Oil interests, which is not quite the same thing.

“Ah ha!” some might say, “American oil, that’s the real reason. No. That confuses cause with effect.

It’s like someone telling you you married your wife just for the sex. When you say, “No,” they say, “Do you have sex with her?” and you say, “Yes,” they say, “That proves I’m right.”

Any advantage American companies would gain in a post-Saddam war could never justify the cost of such a war. Period. Not even close.

Oil companies don’t make a high rate of profit from oil. If you look at Exxon-Mobil, it’s only about 5%.

Oil companies make their money on volume. Exxon-Mobil may only make a 5% profit, but their revenues are over $200 billion a year, which means a profit of almost $12 billion a year.

If Iraqi oil production got pushed to the maximum (or about 6 million barrels a day), the profits for the oil companies per year would be about $3-4 billion per year (Iraq would get much more than that from royalties).

That may seem like a lot of money, but several billion dollars extra profit a year is chump change compared to the several hundred billion dollars minimum this war and its aftermath would cost.

At most, you can call this a fringe benefit, just like sex (at least ought to be) a fringe benefit of marriage. You certainly don’t mind what comes with it, but you don’t do it just for that reason.

Page 3: Environmentally Friendly?…

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Environmentally-Friendly?

Some more environmentally-inclined folks seem to rather like the idea that Saddam might wreck the oil industry, send prices skyrocketing, and thereby benefit solar and other forms of power. It’s pretty weird for Gaea worshippers to suddenly find a man who set the Kuwaiti oil field afire and pumped millions of gallons of oil into the Persian Gulf to be their friend, but politics do make strange bedfellows. The idea seems to be, “Let Saddam do the dirty work for us.”

They seem to believe that the world can go from oil to something like as easily as choosing Pepsi over Coke.

The reality is that even if Saddam nuked most of the Middle East’s oil supplies, alternative energy sources could not possibly fill the gap short-term, and wouldn’t fill the gap medium-term, either.

The world runs on oil, and will for decades to come. Period. A world with the oil spigot sharply reduced would go into depression. Period. A lot of people, especially in poorer countries, wouldn’t be able to heat their homes much or at all, or have jobs because manufacturers couldn’t stay open anymore. Many would die as a indirect result of that.

There’s just no way the world could shift to alternative sources of energy within a few years. The productive capacity just isn’t there.

In the longer term, alternative energy sources are still too expensive to replace fossil fuels. It’s a much better situation that it was in the seventies, but solar power is still several times as expensive as using fossil fuels, and such technologies such as wind power can only help a little.

If Middle East oil largely vanished, here’s what would really happen. Environmental restrictions would be eased for a few years, and a lot of coal would get burned. You’d see nuclear plants get approved in a hurry.

In the longer term, a crash effort would be made to expand oil production from tar sands. Current technology makes getting oil out of tar sands economically feasible at prices higher but not too much higher than current pricing. The U.S. has a lot of tar sands, but Canada has far more. In an oil disaster, Canada becomes the next Saudi Arabia. (This is why the first Saudi Arabia doesn’t like seeing oil prices get too high. They’re not stupid. Whom would you rather fork your gas money to, all else being equal: Saddam Hussein or Michael J. Fox?)

In the long run, the world will convert from fossil fuels to probably a solar/hydrogen combination when the second gets cheaper than the first. That won’t happen soon (though that day will come in the foreseeable future).

We’re probably looking at the changeover in 2030-2050. In this kind of crisis and crash development programs, maybe 2020. That’s a long time to be cold.

Conclusion…

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Conclusion

I’m not going to pretend the U.S. Iraq strategy was passed on from Jesus to George. The presentation surely didn’t. It’s not good when the best presenter of overall American foreign policy has been the British prime minister.

It is understandable that non-Americans become concerned or more than that when American foreign policy sometimes sounds like Invasion of the Month lately.

Iraq raises some important questions about how the world should conduct itself. It is understandable and reasonable that much of the world doesn’t like or at least has doubts about the American answers. What is not understandable or reasonable is the lack of viable alternatives emerging, alternatives that address the points America makes. Ducking questions is no answer.

So much of what I’ve seen are what I call “woo-woo” arguments. Lots of noise, lots of name-calling, lots of slogans, lots of emotion. Lots of everything except thought, logic and knowledge.

This is not to say that you would inevitably have to agree with war if you did so or that you can’t come up with an alternative. Even I can think of a few possibilities.

I’ve just seen little if any of it.

It’s an important issue, not just today, but for the future. When a little country or even a little group can do a lot of killing, with little warning, that’s a problem, and it needs an answer, and not “Woo Woo.”

It’s a problem that deserves more mental effort from those who disagree with the American answer than it has gotten.

Think about it.

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